Public input sought on draft conservation plan for Sunkhaze Meadows, Carlton Pond

Posted April 23, 2013, at 3:50 p.m.

MILFORD, Maine — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its draft comprehensive conservation plan and environmental assessment for Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Milford and Carlton Pond Waterfowl Production Area in Troy.

The draft document describes the three alternatives that were evaluated for managing the refuge for the next 15 years. It also looks at potential environmental effects for each alternative.

Federal fish and game officials have identified alternative B as the preferred alternative for management of the refuge and waterfowl production area.

Under alternative B, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would:

— Focus on preserving the peatland-wetland complex and mature forest in Sunkhaze Meadows.

— Continue shrubland habitat management at the Sandy Stream Unit.

— Increase habitat management and monitoring efforts.

— Work with partners to update interpretive materials and displays and increase visits.

— Expand public use programs on the refuge, including service-led environmental education programs and improving maintenance of public use facilities, contingent on the addition of staff.

Also reviewed was alternative A, which calls for no changes in refused management, and alternative C, which calls for more public use than alternative B as well as expanding trails in the Benton Unit in Benton.

Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1988 to preserve the Sunkhaze Meadows peat bog and ensure public access to the environment and wildlife resources. The refuge, which encompasses nearly 12,000 acres, consists of three units — the Sunkhaze Meadows Unit in Milford, the Benton Unit in Benton and the Sandy Stream Unit in Unity.

Located in Troy, Carlton Pond Waterfowl Production Area was established in 1965 as a resting and breeding area for waterfowl and migratory birds. The waterfowl production area is 1,068 acres, and provides habitat for the black tern, which is listed as a state endangered species, as well as American black ducks, common goldeneye and other waterfowl.

The draft plan is available for public review and comment through May 31. Federal fish and wildlife officials will consider all comments before implementing any alternative and before completing a final comprehensive conservation plan or the refuge and waterfowl production area.

Information on the draft plan can be found online at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/Sunkhaze%20Meadows/PDF/DraftRelease_Newsletter_17April2013.pdf

Paper copies can be obtained from the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge headquarters at 9 Water Street, P.O. Box 1735, Rockland, ME 04841. Copies also can be seen at the Old Town Public Library and the Dorothy Webb Quimby Library at Unity College.

Public hearings on the plan have been set for 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, April 25, at the Milford town office, and from 3-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.. on Friday, April 26, at the Unity Community Center.

Comments may be submitted at public meetings or via letters, faxes, phone calls and emails. Send comments to northeastplanning@fws.gov with “Sunkhaze Meadows NWR” or “Carlton Pond WPA CCP” in the subject line. Mail comments to Lia McLaughlin at 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035. Call or fax comments to 413-253-8468. The deadline for comments is May 31.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov.

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